Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Authors confronts longstanding myths about Native Americans

By David Steinberg

Sometimes short, snappy statements are pathways to understanding complex issues. You can find those pathways in virtually every chapter of “All the Real Indians Died Off and 20 Other Myths About Native Americans.” Each chapter investigates the origins and impacts of a different myth. The investigations are opportunities to rethink assumptions about American Indians. The first chapter is about the myth named in the book’s title. It’s a reference to once-popular phrase “the vanishing Indian.” The authors, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker, take aim at the myth with both barrels. “No myth about Native people is as pervasive, pernicious and self-serving as the myth of the vanishing Native,” they write. The myth reached its zenith around the end of the 19th century. The authors say what’s important to understand is the myth’s self-serving function. It was used in pursuit of seizing Indian lands through policies of forced assimilation, the authors argue. The diminishing presence of Indians eased the transfer of Indian treaty lands to ownership by Anglo settlers. Viewed today, the authors say, the myth is “entirely untrue, if for no other reason than because there are currently 567 federally recognized Native nations in the United States today” and because 5.2 million people identified as Native American or Alaska Native, alone or in combination with other races, according to the 2010 Census. Here are two of the other myths in the collection that Dunbar-Ortiz and Gilio-Whitaker confront...more

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